News / Middle East

Syria Denies Cluster Bomb Allegations

Henry Ridgwell
The Syrian army Monday slammed Human Rights Watch allegations that in recent days it has begun widespread attacks using Russian-made, banned cluster bombs.
"The Syrian army does not possess this kind of bomb," the army said in a statement. "Such reports are baseless and a part of a disinformation campaign."
In a detailed report issued Sunday and based on videos posted on line, Human Rights Watch said there is a growing array of evidence that Syrian government forces are using the bombs.
Cluster Bombs
-Contains explosive submunitions or bomblets
-Dropped from aircraft or fired from ground
-Breaks open in air, broadly scattering submunitions
-Many submunitions fail to explode on impact, putting people at risk for years
-Several countries, including U.S., have used cluster bombs
-U.S. says cluster munitions have demonstrated military utility and can often result in less collateral damage than a larger bomb or artillery shell
“Cluster munitions are prohibited around the world through a cluster-munitions treaty, but Syria appears to be using them," said David Mepham, an analyst at Human Rights Watch. "The evidence that we have suggests that these cluster munitions came from the Soviet era. They’re a type of bomb canister and a type of bomblet that was manufactured in that part of the world.
"What we don’t know is when they were transferred to Syria, whether they have been sitting in the Syrian stockpile for the last 20-plus years, or whether they were transferred more recently,” he said.
Russian denial
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Belgium that the Syrian government is not using cluster munitions from Russia, adding "there are loads of weapons in this region...and arms are supplied there in large quantities and illegally."
Human Rights Watch said the videos tell a different story.
On one video, a Syrian helicopter hovers over Taftanaz in Idlib province – and drops a bomb on the village. Human Rights said the separation as it falls, and the multiple explosions from the bomblets contained inside, show it is a cluster bomb.
The video, said to be taken last week, is part of a series posted online. They are impossible to verify.
Other videos show remains of bomb casings and a man displaying a collection of bomblets in Talbiseh near Homs. Another video, shot in Deir Ezzor province, appears to show a child playing with an unexploded bomblet – one of the biggest dangers, Mepham said.
“If they don’t detonate they spray over a large area of territory, a series of sort of smaller bomblets that often look quite shiny and metallic, and children often pick them up and say, what’s this thing we’ve discovered, it’s a piece of ordinance," he said. "But then actually, on picking it up and touching it, they can detonate.”
Opposition targeted
Human Rights Watch says many of the bombing targets were near the main highway that runs between Damascus and the second city, Aleppo. Government and rebel forces are battling for control of the key route.
The opposition Free Syrian Army claims it has taken the town of Maarat Al Numan. That would enable it to cut off a key supply route for the capital. FSA fighters claim this is the start of a bigger offensive in the area.
But the rebels remain heavily outgunned. Fighter jets and helicopters pose a constant threat.
Mepham said he fears the Syrian government forces may resort to even more lethal weaponry.
“Some months ago we documented the fact that the Syrian forces were laying land mines on the very routes that people were using to escape the country, to cross the borders," he said. "The use of cluster munitions is a further development. It’s very worrying."

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Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
October 18, 2012 9:10 AM
Ridiculous, the "rebels" use civilians as human shields, which IS a war crime, HRW is NOT interested. Sadly this organization is USED as a tool for propaganda.

by: PatriotForPeace from: Ohio
October 16, 2012 11:14 AM
"The video, said to be taken last week, is part of a series posted online. They are impossible to verify."
Most likely the only thing that's actually true about this article.

by: Anonymous
October 15, 2012 9:18 PM
Another good reason why the world should go in and pull Assad out by the hair. It's just a matter of time before Assads days are numbered.

by: Alex-Anika from: Canada
October 15, 2012 6:36 PM
these are Russian cluster bombs... I know... but what is the West to do...??? should we prefer Assad / Hizbullah / Iran... or the brutality of the Muslim Brotherhood / Al Qaida / Palestinian Islamic Jihad...?? whatever we decide to do we must confront it head on... ISLAM must be confronted and demolished... and above all else - please - let us consult the Israelis

by: kannan mahathevan from: Tamil Eelam
October 15, 2012 4:55 PM
These kinds of outcries do nothing in principle, for it's the same big powers that arm the barbarous states with the weapons and it's the same Human-Rights-Watch that identifies and cry foul! Even when witnesses and evidences are produced before the world's eyes, nothing is done about it and for the perpetrators and their suppliers, it's business as usual. Our people, women and children, even the unborn babies in their mothers' wombs were killed and maimed by these bombs, the world watched in silence and regime like Mubarak's Egypt and Turkey saluted the culprits, while Red-China and Putisn's Russia offered diplomatic protection and Madam Clinton's envoys chose to dissuade the victims from talking about it. The same will happen to these poor Syrians!

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